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Decameron - Mammoth Special CD (album) cover

MAMMOTH SPECIAL

Decameron

 

Prog Folk

3.03 | 20 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars If "Say Hello to the Band" was atypical in the Decameron discography for its carefree down home sensibilities, at least these were convincingly conveyed, not to mention deftly juxtaposed with more serious selections. In contrast, for most of side 1 of the "Mammoth Special" LP on which this review is based, our boys seem to flail from one hackneyed idiom to another. Unfortunately these forays put this sophomore effort a notch below the debut, even if the second part contains some of Decameron's best work.

While the pop-funk of the title cut does have its charms, it also seems like so much of what we have heard from that era, by groups more suited to that style, which repeats, more or less, on "A Glimpse of Me". The most redeeming quality of both cuts is the witty lyricism. In contrast, the Stephen Stills-penned "Rock n Roll Woman is dire; the first recorded exercise of the embryonic alter ego, the Magnificent Mercury Brothers, is as wooden as a corpse, with even the harmonies sounding static.

The proceedings improve dramatically with "Late on Lady Day", which, along with "Stone House" later in the album, show the first indications of the progressive penchant of including a song within a song, with decidedly different moods, holding together as an entity. Both are haunting, heartfelt and bittersweet narratives with layers of acoustic dimension, and I find myself moved by the astuteness of the observations coming from relatively young men. "breakdown of the Song" is like a holdover from the first album, with similar feel and thematic content to LINDISFARNE's "Taking Care of Business" off "Roll on Ruby", taking a piece out of music industry leeches.

Other highlights are "The Cheetah", which is a more or less conventional rocker enhanced by an entire percussion section and monster work by newcomer Dik Cadbury on bass. The mildly misogynist tone is more a result of sympathy for the protagonist than blatant criticism. "Jan" is perhaps my favourite track here, a tasteful romp through 1930s swing framed as a tribute to a 1930s swing violin player, with plenty of 1974 violin on display. The portrayal of proper ladies "taking tea in the afternoon" is one of the many images conjured by this gem. "Parade" is a dirge like proggy track with much mysterious fiddle, chunky bass, and a reverent vocal by John Coppin. The album closer, "The Empty Space", is perhaps a tad too string heavy but the beauty of the melody more than compensates.

"Mammoth Special" ultimately adopts the approach to be retained in Decameron's most progressive outings. It is worth picking up if you enjoy folk oriented rock with unique observations on the life of olde and new (70s) England, even if it is somewhat woolly in parts.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |

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